- This year, we’ve seen the events industry get flipped on its head.
- Now more than ever is the time to consider how event marketers and planners can ensure they’re keeping people entertained, connected and, most importantly, engaged virtually.
- As event marketers and planners navigate their options for providing digital event opportunities, there are three main considerations they face: replicating energy and momentum in a virtual setting, understanding the power of face-to-face human connection, and maintaining authenticity in business relationships.
This year, we’ve seen the events industry get flipped on its head. Whether cancelled, postponed or converted to digital, in-person events as a whole have understandably been put on hold in light of COVID-19.
Most recently, Cannes announced it will completely cancel its in-person 2020 event after organizers had originally decided to postpone it to October, while the SXSW Film Festival teamed up with Amazon Prime to stream movies for free instead of showcase them in person this year.
While we’ve seen great examples like these of businesses getting creative with their conference strategies in the midst of COVID-19, we can’t help but think about what gets lost when in-person events are postponed.
As we’ve seen industry experts and media put it, the events industry isn’t “doomed,” but it will change. Now more than ever is the time to consider how event marketers and planners can ensure they’re keeping people entertained, connected and, most importantly, engaged virtually.
By employing the right strategies, businesses can come back better than ever to still create the sense of community people crave from events, while continuing to collect valuable intent data that strengthens their customer and prospect relationships in this new reality.
In the immediate future, as event marketers and planners ponder this and navigate their options for providing digital event opportunities, there are three main considerations they face: replicating energy and momentum in a virtual setting, understanding the power of face-to-face human connection, and maintaining authenticity in business relationships.
Replicating live events energy through the screen
With events, having good content and presentations is one thing, but a powerful speaker standing in front of an audience delivering their message is what truly seals the deal and captures attention.
Beyond the stage, the energy that people get from being in a room with other professionals, reconnecting with colleagues old and new – likely with a favorite classic song playing in the background – is incomparable.
While scenarios like this aren’t possible right now with events pivoting to digital, event marketers and planners should consider how their businesses can match this momentum in a virtual setting.
Focusing on highly-engaging speakers and understanding how to prep them for the screen as opposed to a live audience will be helpful. Other tactics like virtual “networking hours” and gamification via live competitions or surveys can also help keep an audience excited for what’s next.
To amplify audience engagement further, event marketers can consider a mobile app as a means to add to intent data and be able to more accurately personalize content and follow up.
Recognizing the power of human connection at events
We’re taught from a young age that handshakes are the bread and butter of first impressions. While a small gesture, the act of shaking someone’s hand upon meeting them is one of the many ways in which networking and human interaction has changed with in-person events getting canceled.
At the end of the day, all humans crave connection – and small acts like this, to larger interactions that make up networking as we know it including face-to-face conversations and one-to-one meetings, play a big role in relationship building.
We’ve seen this supported by the fact that the use of video conferencing tools and apps has sharply increased since stay-at-home initiatives have been put in place in light of COVID-19.
If considering a digital event, create frequent moments for live interaction – whether it be inviting participants to provide input on a session or topic via chat rooms, quick quiz rounds to keep people on their feet, or simply giving access to an easy-to-use networking tool such as an event mobile app, where attendees can “meet-up” or chat in-between sessions.
It’s easy to forget in virtual settings that attendees don’t just want to watch content, but they want to be able to interact with it, talk to speakers and other attendees, and provide feedback.
Maintaining authenticity in business relationships
Whenever you’re marketing or selling something, the hardest thing to do is demonstrate authenticity in your approach – and this is made even more difficult when you have to reach people via email and other virtual alternatives, as opposed to in-person events.
Prepare your sales team for networking in a virtual setting – how should their approach change, and how will your digital alternative support it?
Consider the basics like allowing for one-on-one networking opportunities during the virtual gathering, and encouraging your team to always take meetings with video on to offer a more personable conversation.
Also, just like with an in-person event, gathering the right information about your target audience and leads to offer personalized and interactive content is just as, if not more important in a virtual setting.
Understand what data you want to collect before your virtual event kicks off, and use those insights for customized follow-ups to keep people engaged with your content afterwards.
Virtual alternatives can’t replace some of the best moments in-person events offer, but we do have to adjust to this new reality and humanize the digital experience to keep our audiences engaged.
Finding ways to replicate the energy in-person events provide, creating moments for face-to-face engagement and interaction, and sustaining authentic communication with customers and prospects are all top considerations for event marketers and planners as they make the pivot to digital events.
At the end of the day, people are now more than ever looking for reasons to gather (virtually), learn from each other and build meaningful connections.
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